Category Archives: Doctors of the Church

St Jerome on the Book of Joel

-from a commentary on the book of Joel by Saint Jerome, priest, Doctor of the Church (PL 25, 967-968) as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, 21st Week in Ordinary Time.

“”Return to me with all your heart [Joel 2:12] and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning [Joel 2:12]; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation [cf Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4]. It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments. The gospel records that the high priest did this to exaggerate the charge against our Lord and Savior; and we read that Paul and Barnabas did so when they heard words of blasphemy. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts [Joel 2:13] which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord. After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins [cf Luke 7:41-47].

For the Lord is gracious and merciful [Joel 2:13] and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed. But in this passage we should interpret “evil” to mean, not the opposite of virtue, but affliction, as we read in another place: Sufficient for the day are its own evils [cf Matthew 6:34]. And, again: If there is evil in the city, God did not create it.

In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing? [Joel 2:14]. In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities [cf Psalm 51:1]. But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent? [cf Joel 2:14]. Since he says, Who, it must be understood that it is impossible or difficult to know for sure.

To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and libations for the Lord our God [cf Joel 2:14]. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.”

Love,
Matthew

Give us this day….


-by Br Barnabas McHenry, OP

“One of the parts of the Mass in which the Church gives her priests autonomy over word choice is the introduction to the Prayers of the Faithful. There are many fine ways to direct the faithful to prayer, but one that I have heard in several places and found particularly striking is, “Let us pray to God for what is needed.”

If we are in the habit of praying, chances are we know in a profound way that we are needy creatures. But can we know what we really need? St. Thomas considers this very concern in his commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He calls prayer of petition nothing other than the expression to God of our desires (desideriorum explicatio). As one Dominican, Giles Emery, puts it, “To know what is necessary to ask, is to know what is necessary to desire.”

St. Thomas thought that we could have a general knowledge of those things to desire and for which to ask by calling to mind the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. After all, it is a good thing to desire the accomplishment of God’s will, or a worldly good to sustain one’s life (to be given one’s “daily bread”), or to be spared temptations. But the devil is found in the details, as it were. For instance, you may desire to further God’s Kingdom as a missionary in Africa, while his will is actually that you further it as a good father or mother in Altoona. You may believe that a certain temporal good will allow you to be a better Christian, but, as St. Thomas is quick to warn, “many [have] perished on account of riches.” You may wish fervently to avoid some temptation, but perhaps God desires to use this temptation as a “thorn in the flesh” so that, like St. Paul, you may avoid prideful boasting in anything save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:7).

By ourselves, we do not know what we ought to desire in the concrete particularities of life, and so neither do we know for what we should ask God. This is what St. Thomas calls the weakness (infirmitas) of life. Each of us, due to the effects of original sin and our own personal sins and errors, can feel like a vessel on the sea amidst a dense, enveloping fog. We struggle to discern whether we are close to port or off our charted course.

To the Romans, St. Paul gave this assurance: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). St. Thomas explains that the Holy Spirit cannot intercede for us as if he were an inferior, for he is true God. Rather, “the Holy Spirit makes us pray, insofar as he causes right desires in us.” Like the beacon of a lighthouse to a distressed ship, the Holy Spirit sends forth the charity of God into our hearts in order to dispel the darkness and enable us to see how to pray for what is truly needed here and now.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us all how to pray to our Heavenly Father in a general way. The Spirit, whom the Father and the Son send into the world as Advocate, desires to teach each of us how to desire and to ask for what is needed in our particular parishes, communities, families, and lives. If we are docile to the Spirit, his gift to us will be the conformity of our desires to the will of God, whereby they become acceptable and efficacious.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love. Send forth the divine radiance of your light, for in this way alone can we ask with daring confidence for what we desire, and desire what we truly need, having been made wise and fit to enjoy your heavenly consolations. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Will the saved rejoice in the sufferings of the damned? – ST., Suppl., Q. 94

SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, SUPPLEMENT

Question 94. The relations of the saints towards the damned

Article 1. Whether the blessed in heaven will see the sufferings of the damned?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed in heaven will not see the sufferings of the damned. For the damned are more cut off from the blessed than wayfarers. But the blessed do not see the deeds of wayfarers: wherefore a gloss on Isaiah 63:16, “Abraham hath not known us,” says: “The dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing” [St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis xiii, xv]. Much less therefore do they see the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, perfection of vision depends on the perfection of the visible object: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4) that “the most perfect operation of the sense of sight is when the sense is most disposed with reference to the most beautiful of the objects which fall under the sight.” Therefore, on the other hand, any deformity in the visible object redounds to the imperfection of the sight. But there will be no imperfection in the blessed. Therefore they will not see the sufferings of the damned wherein there is extreme deformity.

On the contrary, It is written (Isaiah 66:24): “They shall go out and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me”; and a gloss says: “The elect will go out by understanding or seeing manifestly, so that they may be urged the more to praise God.”

I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. This gloss speaks of what the departed saints are able to do by nature: for it is not necessary that they should know by natural knowledge all that happens to the living. But the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens both to wayfarers and to the damned. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xii) that Job’s words (14:21), “‘Whether his children come to honour or dishonour, he shall not understand,’ do not apply to the souls of the saints, because since they possess the glory of God within them, we cannot believe that external things are unknown to them.” [Concerning this Reply, Cf. I:89:8].

Reply to Objection 2. Although the beauty of the thing seen conduces to the perfection of vision, there may be deformity of the thing seen without imperfection of vision: because the images of things whereby the soul knows contraries are not themselves contrary. Wherefore also God Who has most perfect knowledge sees all things, beautiful and deformed.

Article 2. Whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned?
Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned. For pity proceeds from charity [Cf. II-II:30]; and charity will be most perfect in the blessed. Therefore they will most especially pity the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed will never be so far from taking pity as God is. Yet in a sense God compassionates our afflictions, wherefore He is said to be merciful.

On the contrary, Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.

I answer that, Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice. In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice. Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason. Now mercy or compassion comes of the reason’s choice when a person wishes another’s evil to be dispelled: wherefore in those things which, in accordance with reason, we do not wish to be dispelled, we have no such compassion. But so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will—in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation—and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers. But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. Charity is the principle of pity when it is possible for us out of charity to wish the cessation of a person’s unhappiness. But the saints cannot desire this for the damned, since it would be contrary to Divine justice. Consequently the argument does not prove.

Reply to Objection 2. God is said to be merciful, in so far as He succors those whom it is befitting to be released from their afflictions in accordance with the order of wisdom and justice: not as though He pitied the damned except perhaps in punishing them less than they deserve.

Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. For rejoicing in another’s evil pertains to hatred. But there will be no hatred in the blessed. Therefore they will not rejoice in the unhappiness of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed in heaven will be in the highest degree conformed to God. Now God does not rejoice in our afflictions. Therefore neither will the blessed rejoice in the afflictions of the damned.

Objection 3. Further, that which is blameworthy in a wayfarer has no place whatever in a comprehensor. Now it is most reprehensible in a wayfarer to take pleasure in the pains of others, and most praiseworthy to grieve for them. Therefore the blessed nowise rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”

Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.

I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

Reply to Objection 1. To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).

Reply to Objection 2. Although God rejoices not in punishments as such, He rejoices in them as being ordered by His justice.

Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another’s afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

Holy Name of Jesus – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluus, Doctor of Mercy

-by St Bernard of Clairvaux

“Wisdom is a kindly spirit, and easy of access to those who call upon Him. Quite often He anticipates their request and says: “Here I am.” Listen now to what, because of your prayers, He has revealed to me about the subject we postponed yesterday; be ready to gather the ripe fruit of your intercession. I put before you a name that is rightly compared to oil, how rightly I shall explain. You encounter many names for the Bridegroom scattered through the pages of Scripture, but all these I sum up for you in two. I think you will find none that does not express either the gift of His love or the power of His majesty. The Holy Spirit tells us this through the mouth of one of His friends: ‘Two things I have heard: it is for God to be strong, for you, Lord, to be merciful.” With reference to His majesty we read: “Holy and terrible is His name;” with reference to His love: “Of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Further examples make it clearer still.

Jeremiah says: ‘This is the name by which He will be called: ‘the Lord our righteous one’ ” – a name suggesting power; but when Isaiah says: “His name will be called Emmanuel,” he indicates His love. He himself said: ‘You call me Master and Lord.” The first title implies love, the second majesty. Love’s business is to educate the mind as well as to provide the body’s food. Isaiah also said: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, the Mighty One, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The first, third and fourth signify majesty, the others love. Whom of these therefore is poured out? In some mysterious way the name of majesty and power is transfused into that of love and mercy, an amalgam that is abundantly poured out in the person of our Savior Jesus Christ. The name “God” liquefies and dissolves into the title “God with us,” that is, into “Emmanuel.” He who is ‘Wonderful” becomes “Counselor”; “God” and “the Mighty One” become the “Everlasting Father” and the “Prince of Peace.” “The Lord our righteous one” becomes the “gracious and merciful Lord.” This process is not new: in ancient times “Abram” became Abraham and Sarai became “Sara”; and we are reminded that in these events the mystery of the incarnation of salvation was pre-figured and celebrated.

So I ask where now is that warning cry: “I am the Lord, I am the Lord,” that resounded with recurring terror in the ears of the people of old. The prayer with which I am familiar, that begins with the sweet name of Father, gives me confidence of obtaining the petitions with which it continues. Servants are called friends in this new way, and the resurrection is proclaimed not to mere disciples but to brothers.

Run then, O pagans, salvation is at hand, that name is poured out which saves all who invoke it. “The God of the angels calls Himself the God of men. He poured out oil on Jacob and it fell on Israel. Say to your brothers: “Give us some of your oil. If they refuse, ask the Lord of the oil to give it to you. Say to Him: ‘Take away our reproach.” See that no envious tongue insults your beloved, whom it has pleased you to call from the ends of the earth with a compassion all the greater for her unworthiness. Is it fitting, I ask, that a wicked servant should shut out the invited guests of the master of the house? You have said: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Of no more than these? Pour out, continue to pour; open your hand still wider and satisfy the desire of everything that lives.

Let them come from the east and the west and take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Let them come, let the tribes come up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise his name according to his command to Israel. Let them come and take their place, let them feast and be filled with gladness, let the banqueters sing as one man the resounding song of exultation and praise: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” One thing I know: if we find that the porters are Andrew and Philip, we shall not be repulsed when we ask for oil, when we desire to see Jesus. Philip will at once tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip will tell Jesus. And what will Jesus say? Precisely because he is Jesus he will tell them: “Unless a wheat-grain falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”” Let the grain die therefore, and let the harvest of the pagans spring to fruition. It is necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that penance and forgiveness of sin should be preached in his name, not alone in Judea but even among all nations, because from the sole name of Christ thousands upon thousands of believers are called Christians, whose hearts all re-echo: ‘Your name is oil poured out.”

I recognize new the name hinted at by Isaiah: “My servants are to be given a new name. Whoever is blessed on earth in that name will be blessed by the Lord, Amen.” O blessed name, oil poured out without limit! From heaven it pours down on Judea and from there over all the earth, so that round the whole world the Church proclaims: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” And what an outpouring! It not only bathes the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee in the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should acclaim: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Take the name Christ, take the name Jesus; both were infused into the angels, both were poured out upon men, even upon men who rotted like animals in their own dung. Thus you became a savior both of men and beasts, so countless are your mercies, O God. Hew precious your name, and yet how cheap! Cheap, but the instrument of salvation. If it were not cheap it would not have been poured out for me; if it lacked saving power it would not have won me. Made a sharer in the name, I share too in its inheritance. For I am a Christian, Christ’s own brother. If I am what I say, I am the heir of God, co-heir with Christ. And what wonder if the name of the Bridegroom is poured out, since he himself is poured out? For he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

Did he not even say: “I am poured out like water”? The fullness of the divine life was poured out and lived on earth in bodily form, that all of us who live in this body doomed to death may receive from that fullness, and being filled with its life-giving odor say: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Such is what is meant by the outpouring of the name, such its manner, such its extent.

How shall we explain the world-wide light of faith, swift and flaming in its progress, except by the preaching of Jesus’ name? Is it not by the light of this name that God has called us into his wonderful light, that irradiates our darkness and empowers us to see the light? To such as we Paul says: ‘You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.” This is the name that Paul was commanded to present before kings and pagans and the people of Israel; a name that illumined his native land as he carried it with him like a torch, preaching on all his journeys that the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon – let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the day-time. To every eye he was a lamp on its lamp-stand; to every place he brought the good news of Jesus, and him crucified.

What a splendor radiated from that light, dazzling the eyes of the crowd, when Peter uttered the name that strengthened the feet and ankles of the cripple, and gave light to many eyes that were spiritually blind! Did not the words shoot like a flame when he said: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk”? But the name of Jesus is more than light, it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can so enrich the man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? The food of the mind is dry if it is not dipped in that oil; it is tasteless if not seasoned by that salt. Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart.

Again, it is a medicine. Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky. Does someone fall into sin? Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will be at once renewed. The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit – have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name? The tears damned up by the barrier of our pride – how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name? Wnere is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, dti not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name? Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve? In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine, fair proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride.

It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire. For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength. All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name. Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him. The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

Hidden as in a vase, in this name of Jesus, you, my soul, possess a salutary remedy against which no spiritual illness will be proof. Carry it always close to your heart, always in your hand, and so ensure that all your affections, all your actions, are directed to Jesus. You are even invited to do this: “Set me as a seal,” he says, “upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” Here is a theme we shall treat of again. For the moment you have this ready medicine for heart and hand. The name of Jesus furnishes the power to correct your evil actions; to supply what is wanting to imperfect ones; in this name your affections find a guard against corruption, or if corrupted, a power that will make them whole again.

Judea too has had her Jesus – Messiahs in whose empty names she glories: fair they give neither light nor food nor medicine. Hence the Synagogue is in the darkness still, enduring the pangs of hunger and disease, and she will neither be healed nor have her fill until she discovers that my Jesus rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth, until she comes back in the evening, hungering like a dog and prowling about the city. True, they were sent on in advance, like the staff preceding the Prophet to where the child lay dead, but they could not see a meaning in their own names because no meaning was there.

The staff was laid upon the corpse but produced neither voice nor movement since it was a mere staff. Then he who sent the staff came down and quickly saved his people from their sins, proving that men spoke truly of him when they said: ‘Who is this man that he even forgives sins?” He is no other than the one who says: “I am the salvation of my people.” Now the Word is heard, now it is experienced, and it is clear that, unlike the others, he bears no empty name. As men feel the infusion of spiritual health they refuse to conceal their good fortune. The inward experience finds outward expression. Stricken with remorse I speak out his praise, and praise is a sign of life: “For from the dead, as from one who does not exist, praise has ceased.” But see! I am conscious, I am alive! I am perfectly restored, my resurrection is complete.

What else is the death of the body than to be deprived of life and feeling? Sin; which is the death of the soul, took from me the feeling of compunction, hushed my prayers of praise; I was dead. Then he who forgives sin came down, restored my senses again and said: “I am your deliverer.” Why wonder that death should yield when he who is life comes down? “For a man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” The child who was dead is now yawning, he yawns seven times as if to say: “Seven times daily I praise you, Lord.” Take note of this number seven. It is not a meaningless number, it bears a sacred significance. But because you are by now sated, we should do well to hold this theme over for another sermon, and come with whetted appetites to a table newly laden, to which we are invited by the Church’s Spouse, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen. ”

Love,
Matthew

Epiphany – Pope St Leo the Great, (400-461 AD), Doctor of the Church

“After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring and kindred mysteries. For it concerns all men’s salvation, that the infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town.

For although He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation, from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits of His mother’s home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing that He deigned to be born for all. To three wise men, therefore, appeared a star of new splendour in the region of the East, which, being brighter and fairer than the other stars, might easily attract the eyes and minds of those that looked on it, so that at once that might be observed not to be meaningless, which had so unusual an appearance. He therefore who gave the sign, gave to the beholders understanding of it, and caused inquiry to be made about that, of which He had thus caused understanding, and after inquiry made, offered Himself to be found.

These three men follow the leading of the light above, and with steadfast gaze obeying the indications of the guiding splendour, are led to the recognition of the Truth by the brilliance of Grace, for they supposed that a king’s birth was notified in a human sense , and that it must be sought in a royal city. Yet He who had taken a slave’s form, and had come not to judge, but to be judged, chose Bethlehem for His nativity, Jerusalem for His passion. But Herod, hearing that a prince of the Jews was born, suspected a successor, and was in great terror: and to compass the death of the Author of Salvation, pledged himself to a false homage. How happy had he been, if he had imitated the wise men’s faith, and turned to a pious use what he designed for deceit.

What blind wickedness of foolish jealousy, to think you can overthrow the Divine plan by your frenzy. The Lord of the world, who offers an eternal Kingdom, seeks not a temporal. Why do you attempt to change the unchangeable order of things ordained, and to forestall others in their crime? The death of Christ belongs not to your time. The Gospel must be first set on foot, the Kingdom of God first preached, healings first given to the sick, wondrous acts first performed. Why do you wish yourself to have the blame of what will belong to another’s work, and why without being able to effect your wicked design, do you bring on yourself alone the charge of wishing the evil?

You gain nothing and carriest out nothing by this intriguing. He that was born voluntarily shall die of His own free will. The Wise men, therefore, fulfil their desire, and come to the child, the Lord Jesus Christ, the same star going before them. They adore the Word in flesh, the Wisdom in infancy, the Power in weakness, the Lord of majesty in the reality of man: and by their gifts make open acknowledgment of what they believe in their hearts, that they may show forth the mystery of their faith and understanding. The incense they offer to God, the myrrh to Man, the gold to the King, consciously paying honour to the Divine and human Nature in union: because while each substance had its own properties, there was no difference in the power of either.

And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod’s madness blazes out into fruitless schemes. He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king removes from the world, Christ admits to heaven: and on those for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom. Lift your faithful hearts then, dearly-beloved, to the gracious blaze of eternal light, and in adoration of the mysteries dispensed for man’s salvation give your diligent heed to the things which have been wrought on your behalf.

Love the purity of a chaste life, because Christ is the Son of a virgin. “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul [1 Peter 2:11],” as the blessed Apostle, present in his words as we read, exhorts us, “In malice be ye children [1 Corinthians 14:20],” because the Lord of glory conformed Himself to the infancy of mortals. Follow after humility which the Son of God deigned to teach His disciples. Put on the power of patience, in which you may be able to gain your souls; seeing that He who is the Redemption of all, is also the Strength of all. “Set your minds on the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth [Colossians 3:2].” Walk firmly along the path of truth and life: let not earthly things hinder you for whom are prepared heavenly things through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

One True God – St Hilary of Poitiers, (315?-368 AD), Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Christ’s Divinity, Hammer of the Arians

-by St Hilary of Poitiers, “Malleus Arianorum/Hammer of the Arians” and the “Athanasius of the West;” Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church

“When I was seeking an employment adequate to the powers of human life and righteous in itself, whether prompted by nature or suggested by the researches of the wise, whereby I might attain to some result worthy of that Divine gift of understanding which has been given us, many things occurred to me which in general esteem were thought to render life both useful and desirable. And especially that which now, as always in the past, is regarded as most to be desired, leisure combined with wealth, came before my mind. The one without the other seemed rather a source of evil than an opportunity for good, for leisure in poverty is felt to be almost an exile from life itself, while wealth possessed amid anxiety is in itself an affliction, rendered the worse by the deeper humiliation which he must suffer who loses, after possessing, the things that most are wished and sought.

And yet, though these two embrace the highest and best of the luxuries of life, they seem not far removed from the normal pleasures of the beasts which, as they roam through shady places rich in herbage, enjoy at once their safety from toil and the abundance of their food. For if this be regarded as the best and most perfect conduct of the life of man, it results that one object is common, though the range of feelings differ, to us and the whole unreasoning animal world, since all of them, in that bounteous provision and absolute leisure which nature bestows, have full scope for enjoyment without anxiety for possession.

I believe that the mass of mankind have spurned from themselves and censured in others this acquiescence in a thoughtless, animal life, for no other reason than that nature herself has taught them that it is unworthy of humanity to hold themselves born only to gratify their greed and their sloth, and ushered into life for no high aim of glorious deed or fair accomplishment, and that this very life was granted without the power of progress towards immortality; a life, indeed, which then we should confidently assert did not deserve to be regarded as a gift of God, since, racked by pain and laden with trouble, it wastes itself upon itself from the blank mind of infancy to the wanderings of age. I believe that men, prompted by nature herself, have raised themselves through teaching and practice to the virtues which we name patience and temperance and forbearance, under the conviction that right living means right action and right thought, and that Immortal God has not given life only to end in death; for none can believe that the Giver of good has bestowed the pleasant sense of life in order that it may be overcast by the gloomy fear of dying.

And yet, though I could not tax with folly and uselessness this counsel of theirs to keep the soul free from blame, and evade by foresight or elude by skill or endure with patience the troubles of life, still I could not regard these men as guides competent to lead me to the good and happy Life. Their precepts were platitudes, on the mere level of human impulse; animal instinct could not fail to comprehend them, and he who understood but disobeyed would have fallen into an insanity baser than animal unreason. Moreover, my soul was eager not merely to do the things, neglect of which brings shame and suffering, but to know the God and Father Who had given this great gift, to Whom, it felt, it owed its whole self, Whose service was its true honour, on Whom all its hopes were fixed, in Whose loving kindness, as in a safe home and haven, it could rest amid all the troubles of this anxious life. It was inflamed with a passionate desire to apprehend Him or to know Him.

Some of these teachers brought forward large households of dubious deities, and under the persuasion that there is a sexual activity in divine beings narrated births and lineages from god to god. Others asserted that there were gods greater and less, of distinction proportionate to their power. Some denied the existence of any gods whatever, and confined their reverence to a nature which, in their opinion, owes its being to chance-led vibrations and collisions. On the other hand, many followed the common belief in asserting the existence of a God, but proclaimed Him heedless and indifferent to the affairs of men. Again, some worshipped in the elements of earth and air the actual bodily and visible forms of created things.

Finally, some made their gods dwell within images of men or of beasts, tame or wild, of birds or of snakes, and confined the Lord of the universe and Father of infinity within these narrow prisons of metal or stone or wood. These, I was sure, could be no exponents of truth, for though they were at one in the absurdity, the foulness, the impiety of their observances, they were at variance concerning the essential articles of their senseless belief. My soul was distracted amid all these claims, yet still it pressed along that profitable road which leads inevitably to the true knowledge of God.

It could not hold that neglect of a world created by Himself was worthily to be attributed to God, or that deities endowed with sex, and lines of begetters and begotten, were compatible with the pure and mighty nature of the Godhead. Nay, rather, it was sure that that which is Divine and eternal must be one without distinction of sex, for that which is self-existent cannot have left outside itself anything superior to itself. Hence omnipotence and eternity are the possession of One only, for omnipotence is incapable of degrees of strength or weakness, and eternity of priority or succession. In God we must worship absolute eternity and absolute power.”

Love,
Matthew

Trinitarian feasting


-I LOVE SEAFOOD!!!!!

“Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in Your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with Your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, You have given me a share in Your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as His own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love You. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am Your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of Your Son, and I know that You are moved with love at the beauty of Your creation, for You have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know Your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognize that You are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that You are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, You gave Yourself to man in the fire of Your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger You are a satisfying food, for You are sweetness and in You there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!”

This excerpt on the mystery of the triune God from the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena (Cap 167, Gratiarum actio ad Trinitatem) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the liturgical memorial of St. Catherine of Siena on April 29.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 1 – St Therese of Lisieux, OCD, (1873-1897), “The Little Flower”, of the Child Jesus & the Holy Face, Religious & Doctor of the Church

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse was born in France on January 2, 1873. She was raised in a family of great faith, and when Thérèse was nine years old, her older sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. Thérèse idolized her older sister, and became determined, as well, to become a Carmelite nun for Jesus’ sake. While still of a young age, St. Thérèse made her plans formally known but was informed by the authorities that she would need to wait until age 21 to join Carmel. Even so, she was also informed that she could always ask the Bishop for special permission to enter the monastery at an earlier age. Being the determined girl she was, St. Thérèse did just that.

Journeying to Rome, along with her father, Thérèse visited Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux to seek early permission to join the Carmelite order. The Bishop was surprised at St. Therese’s determination and also by her father’s support. But the Bishop said he needed time to think further about her request. Undaunted, St. Thérèse immediately appealed to a higher authority: the Pope himself. St. Thérèse and her father actually secured an audience with the Pope and while the Pope was impressed by her determination, advised her, nonetheless, to listen to her superiors, assuring her that if God, indeed, willed it, she would certainly enter Carmel as a nun. Ultimately, St. Thérèse did just that, taking the Carmelite habit at Lisieux at 16 years of age.

In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse writes about a book she loved called, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon.

“All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth. I experienced already what God reserved for those who love Him (not with the eyes, but with the heart); and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to life’s small sacrifices, I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion. … I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception God will give His elect at the moment He becomes their reward, great and eternal, and I repeated over and over the words of love burning in my heart.”

St. Thérèse, though gifted with a determined will, also felt led to “craft” for herself a simple, childlike and joyful spirituality which she called her “Little Way.” In this Little Way, she obediently and graciously served others no matter where she was or what she was doing. We can, as many people of faith have already experienced—find much consolation in the Little Way of St. Thérèse—as we seek to model our lives after her extraordinary simple yet deep spirituality, in its love and generosity towards others wherever we (or they) are in life.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, “They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ”


-detail of Une Scene du Massacre des Innocents (A Scene of the Massacre of the Innocents), Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714-1789), undated

[Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents’ Day, festival celebrated in the Christian churches in the West on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29 and commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). These children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. At first it may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

It was one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nun and monk were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs, which mocked religion, were condemned by the Council of Basel (1431).

In medieval England the children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century.

The day is still observed as a feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children.]


-partially restored and enhanced St Quodvultdeus mosaic portrait (San Gennaro catacombs, Naples), Unknown artist, 5th century

-from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus, bishop (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655) and spiritual student or “directee”, friend, and correspondent of St. Augustine, Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for December 28th, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.

“A tiny child is born, Who is a great king. Wise men are led to Him from afar [Matthew 2:1]. They come to adore One Who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of One Who is born a king, Herod is disturbed [cf Matthew 2:3]. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill Him, though if he would have faith in the Child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child Whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life Himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – Who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out His own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The Child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself. See the kind of kingdom that is His, coming as He did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying Him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Love,
Matthew

Skepticism

Credo ut intelligam is an axiom of St Anselm, Doctor of the Church, (1033-1109 AD). Understanding the Gospel with assent does NOT precede faith, and never will. Whatever progress we make in understanding the Gospel, incrementally, in our lives, incredibly slowly, is preceded by faith. Faith is required.  Pray for it.  Pray for me.

The reason many people find Christianity bizarre is they try and understand it the same way they understand everything else new, ever, in their lives.  They research it, analytically.   Anselm posits, it will NEVER make sense to anyone that way.  Christian faith is a product of supernatural grace and supernatural faith.  Not natural faith, “I believe in the law of gravity.”  Not mortal grace, whatever that is.  But, a gift, a mystery.  Recall the Catholic use of the word “mystery” is inverse to the English use of it.  Catholic mystery is infinitely knowable. “I believe, so that I may understand.” Help my unbelief, Lord.

“…skepticism…stems from the fear of making a mistake, and is based on its own form of spiritual paralysis and even despair…Reasonable openness to God, then, is a source of spiritual youth in any person or culture…Refusal of the mystery of God makes us the unique masters of ourselves, but also imprisons us within the ascetical constraints of our own banal finitude…Posing questions about God opens the human being up to new vulnerabilities, and therefore also to new forms of happiness that the artificial limitations of skepticism cannot foresee.

Augustine noted that deep-seated skepticism is a luxury item that the true intellectual cannot afford. He points out that belief—faith in what others tell us for our instruction—is fundamental for the intellectual life.17…Concretely, human faith in authentic teachers is nearly always the basis for true growth in understanding…Augustine then draws up a key set of distinctions. On one side, there is extreme skepticism, by which a person remains in a conventional posture, and risks nothing but also can gain nothing. On the other side, there is credulousness, a foolish form of faith by which we mistakenly entrust ourselves to a poor teacher, or even to a true teacher, but fail to understand the material for ourselves, remaining infantilized or rudimentary in our insight. Faith that “merely believes what it ought to believe” is “dead.”18

Between the two extremes is the middle way of “faith seeking understanding,” one that is both human and Christian. We should accept instruction but also examine it critically and studiously, seeking to find the truth in what is said, to test it…Likewise there is a discipline of the mind in becoming a Christian, learning the truth as revealed by God, and developing an intellectual understanding of God’s mystery.

…human beings tend to live “above” the merely empirical dimension of life…So too with the transcendent God, we can learn from Him personally only through faith.19

To receive this instruction requires supernatural faith, which is itself a grace. This grace, as Aquinas notes, is received into the intellect, allowing us to judge that a given teaching comes from God and is about God.20…supernatural faith is like natural trust in a teacher, but it provides something more: direct access to the mystery of God Who reveals Himself to us and teaches us. To seek to know God entails risk, undoubtedly, but it also entails an irreplaceable possibility: that we could truly come to know God personally, find friendship with God, and live with Him by grace. If this possibility is real, and not a mere myth or human conjecture, then it is the greatest of possibilities, and one that we should not dismiss through fear, resignation or complicity with the conventions of our age. As Anselm writes:

“Indeed, for a rational nature to be rational is nothing other than for it to be able to discriminate what is just from what is not just, what is true from what is not true, what is good from what is not good. . . . The rational creature was made for this end: viz., to love above all other goods the Supreme Being, inasmuch as it is the Supreme Good. . . . Clearly, then, the rational creature ought to devote his entire ability and his entire will to . . . understanding and loving the Supreme Good—to which he knows that he owes his existence.”21

The real opposition, then, is not between faith and reason, but between a skeptical reason that is reductive, and a magnanimous, studious reason that engages in faith. Expansive desire for the truth breaks away from conventions, and awakens human beings to our true nobility, against temptations to self-diminishment. The Christian vocation of “faith seeking understanding” is both dynamic and restful. It gives us something greater than ourselves to ponder, and takes us out of ourselves toward God as our teacher. But it also allows us to know ourselves as rational beings, able truly to ask and even answer the deeper religious questions. Faith therefore creates a learning community. The Church is a place where human beings have the conviction to patiently seek the truth together, in a shared life of charity, one that is both cosmopolitan and personal, both reasonable and religious, both philosophical and theological. This communion in the truth is made possible, however, only because people have first accepted to be apprenticed to revelation through a common effort of learning the truth from Another (i.e., God), Who is the author of Truth, and from one another.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph (2017-09-13T23:58:59). The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Location 656, 665-667, 679-673, 676-681, 685, 688, 693-694, 696-697, 702-719). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

17. Augustine, On the Profit of Believing, pars. 10–13, 22–27.
18. Thus Anselm, Monologion, par. 78, echoing Augustine; trans. J. Hopkins in A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm’s Monologion and Proslogion (Minneapolis, Minn.: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1986).
19. Augustine, Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen, par. 2.
20. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 1, a. 1; q. 2, a. 1 [hereafter “ST”]. All translations of ST are taken from Summa Theologica, trans. English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947).
21. Anselm, Monologion, par. 68.